Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Our Plan for the Year: Natural History

I often visited a friend who lived in Maryland when I was in college. Her family lived in the woody hills near the Appalachian Trail (no, they were not Appalachian-Americans). Whenever a bunch of us went walking, she could tell us about the plants and animals. Although I was well-educated and was on track to graduate from a fairly prestigious school, I felt so ignorant about nature.

I couldn't even blame it on being a city-girl because I had spent my high school years in rural Newfoundland--the nearest stoplight was an hour-and-a-half away. My siblings and I did things like build a cabin in the woods, or a distant facsimile of one. We went fishing, picked blueberries, got stuck in the bog, combed the beach for junk, etc. Our school extra-curricular activities included a fishing derby, camping at a bird sanctuary, and heading out to a nature park. One teacher even took us hobbit-hunting down at the docks on the one nice day of Spring--there was only one. As much time as we spent outdoors, we didn't know nature like my friend did.

I used to think that her parents made her learn all that stuff because they were teachers. Her mother was a librarian, and her father taught driver's ed and coached after school. But, now I think it was because her father grew up farming. Her parents grew their own vegetables and her dad even kept bees. They were very close to the land, well-aware of the passing of the seasons. Their old-fashioned lifestyle reminds me of a quote from the one book we are reading for natural history,
By having others think for us and design our work and pleasure, we now live comfortably without certain knowledges that only a century ago were essential. In losing our need to know so many things, our list of general knowledge has at last become exceedingly small; it equips us well for business, less well for the sciences, and very poorly for living the full life.

Spending a little amount of time studying natural history is one element of living the full life. Yesterday Pamela and I studied some empty bird nests my father found in his shed. When the birds return next Spring, my dad will let us know so we can study the life cycle of birds first hand. What kind of birds will we see? Pamela thinks they are robins, but I suspect they are sparrows or finches.

After we wrapped up our study on the life cycle of painted lady butterflies, Pamela found a dead cloudless sulphur butterfly, so we started a list of butterflies in the back of her nature notebook. We spotted a common buckeye and, later this week, she will record her observations and add that to her list. We started a list of trees too, for, after studying winter buds, we will be able to compare the blossoms of peach, pear, and dogwood trees next Spring.

Yesterday, we came across another mystery: we found a branch of our peach sapling covered in webbing and small dark eggs sprinkled all over the leaves. We are keeping an eye on that while we wait for our ladybug kit to arrive.
"In the days of the almanacs, when man lived close to the earth and the sky dictated every move, there was a beautiful and profound understanding of time and life and the spiritual connection between the two." Eric Sloane

The study of natural history also includes the study of the sky. Right now, we are tracking Hurricane Earl on an NOAA chart we printed out. Pamela's first reaction when she saw the track was, "NOT SOUTH CAROLINA!" Her second one was, "Not Louisiana!" (Steve's family live there). We are also keeping weekly weather records and Pamela noticed that last week was drier than the week before and the temperatures have dropped as well. We will be spending the rest of the school year collecting weather data to sharpen Pamela's understanding of the change of seasons.

What is natural history? It is paying attention to what is happening outdoors with careful recordings of day by day observations. It is thinking about the observations and making corrections. It means taking one's time before making any rash conclusions. It is developing a sense of place, which is what we are doing in our corner of the world. When we walk, I help Pamela hone her sense of direction. We notice all the mushrooms popping up after that rainy spell in August. We see butterflies hanging out at butterfly bushes and squirrels chasing each other around tree trunks. We observe where the moss grows along the brick walls and listen for our favorite birds. We will do all these things and more as we explore our turf in a loosely structured plan that will ebb and flow with the changing seasons.

Our natural history book echoes what Charlotte Mason wrote long before he was born,
"Nature never did betray the heart that loved her";––
and, in return for our discriminating and loving observation, she gives us the joy of a beautiful and delightful intimacy, a thrill of pleasure in the greeting of every old friend in field or hedgerow or starry sky, of delightful excitement in making a new acquaintance.

But Nature does more than this for us. She gives us certain dispositions of mind which we can get from no other source, and it is through these right dispositions that we get life into focus, as it were; learn to distinguish between small matters and great, to see that we ourselves are not of very great importance, that the world is wide, that things are sweet, that people are sweet, too; that, indeed, we are compassed about by an atmosphere of sweetness, airs of heaven coming from our God. Of all this we become aware in "the silence and the calm of mute, insensate things." Our hearts are inclined to love and worship; and we become prepared by the quiet schooling of Nature to walk softly and do our duty towards man and towards God. (Page 98)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sample Science Lesson

Before wrapping up the knowledge of the universe (two more topics: natural history and physical development left), I thought I'd share how I do science lessons. The most ideal situation is when you know your learner. I know that Pamela has a strong eye for pattern and takes a long time to pick up new vocabulary. In the math worksheet below, notice Pamela wrote the years 2010, 1982, 1954, and 1926. She knows that all four of these years are a common year starting on Friday. She has all fourteen possible calendars memorized and know what years go with what calendar. If given a month, day, and year, she can tell you the day of the week in a few seconds. That is how good her eye for pattern is!

Pamela spots simple patterns effortlessly In math, we covered dividing an equilateral triangle into nine triangles (RightStart Intermediate Geometry Lesson 7). She had no problem filling out the second column. As soon as she finished the third column, she said, "Odd." I wrote equal signs to the left of the odd numbers and asked, "What do you do to get from the second column to the third?" Within seconds, Pamela replied, "Subtraction. Minus 1."

You may notice the writing on the side. Because Pamela has a hard time with vocabulary, we reviewed shapes with three to six sides. If I do not find ways for her to use new words every day, they will not stick. Seeing them and using them helps to transfer them into her memory.

The other day we did a lesson from TOPS Electricity 32 in which we explored what kind of circuits will and will not power a light bulb with a dry cell (sh . . . it's a battery . . . the teacher is supposed to say "dry cell"). Everything depends upon hooking up four contact points properly: the positive and negative terminals on the dry cell and the metal tip and the silver siding on the light bulb. In the previous lesson last week, we identified the four contact points in our exploration.

At the beginning of a lesson, I try to assess what she remembers. Why? For us to store a new memory, we need to anchor them to a previous memory. Otherwise, the new one will have nothing to latch it and will drift off into Never Never Land. Even better, if you feel a strong emotion, your brain will store the memory with superglue, which is why Charlotte Mason encouraged the reading of living books, not textbooks. In the RDI world, we call this creating a personal anchor.

I added clip art pictures of a dry cell and bulb to the record sheet to see if Pamela remembered the contact points. She did not. So, I had her study her own drawings from the previous lesson and add arrows to the contact points on the clip art pictures. Pamela has such a great eye for pattern that, during the lesson, I figured she would probably quickly realize that you must have four contact points connected if we made a point to count them.

Sure enough, the first three predictions were spotty because she had not fully understood the point of drawing contact points. However, by the fourth circuit, the light went on (pardon the pun) and Pamela predicted the rest of them correctly. (We went out of order going left right rather than down one column and the next: we did A, D, B, E, C, F.)

We had enough time to squeeze in another lesson, this time on hooking up dry cells in a series. Pamela had so much fun with this one and quickly caught on to the connection between the number of cells and the brightness.




She also saw how having opposition in two dry cells prevented the light from working. At first, she did not see the connection between hands-on (the dry cells) and diagram. Once I highlighted them, she saw the difference between opposition and not in opposition. Where we both got confused was having two dry cells in opposition and one not. That moment reveals the beauty of homeschooling. The teacher is not the source of all knowledge and does not have to know every thing. Teacher and taught can learn together.

Luckily, there is an engineer in the house. Since we both were confused, we are going to explore this a little more before moving onto the next lesson. I consulted the resident expert, Steve who has a master's degrees in electrical engineering and once built his own calculator that could only add. I emailed him with questions and he wrote back,

DC batteries are like small streams of water. If you have three streams going in the same direction, feeding the next one, then flow is stronger and hence the bulb is brightest. If you have two batteries going in one direction and one going in another, fundamentally two batteries are pushing against one, and hence the end result is that the net flow is equivalent to one battery (not including heat losses).

I can't wait to share his analogy with Pamela! If Steve had taught me electrical engineering in college, maybe I would have remembered something . . .

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our Plan for the Year: Science (Books *and* Things *and* Drawings)

Before launching into science, I want to point out some little gems over at ChildLightUSA. A few years back, Carroll Smith gave a keynote presentation on nature study, available in PDF and audio. His talk kept me riveted and illuminated why nature study is indispensable. Mother and daughter team Deborah and Holly Anne Dobbins present nature study for beginners every year and have written articles in 2008 and 2007 too. Finally, Nicole Hutchinson, aspiring principal of the future Gillingham Charter School, discussed Revealing the Beauty and Power of the World through Science Instruction a few years back. All of these resources show how to apply Charlotte Masons with students in schools and homes of our day.

In a recent post, Carroll amplified an article written in 1915. What? That's a century ago! I know! Current research on education and how children learn and remember (which is not the same as memorize and regurgitate) concur with highlights from this post:
  • Before beginning the new material, bring up something previously learned that has a connection.
  • Use simple inexpensive materials that are easily available and even re-purposed stuff you might have thrown away.
  • Focus on comparing and contrasting (or a same, but different point of view) in studying new ideas.
  • Read a living book to expand upon what is being studied or to make a new connection to something that cannot be studied directly.
  • Keep lessons, readings, and narrations short--anything beyond a child's attention span is demoralizing.
  • Examine drawings and diagrams and try some copywork.
  • Get out of the classroom and into the real world, especially outdoors where many scientific ideas are waiting to be explored.
  • Encourage self-directed learning.
  • Focus on forming relationships with the things and people being studied.
  • Consider what stages of scientific learning (thank you, Jennifer Gagnon) your child has accomplished and avoid pushing beyond what they are ready to do.
  • Learn with your students and start living in a larger world as described by Beth Pinckney!

We will read some living books on a variety of topics: biographies of Alexander Graham Bell and Louis Braille, stories about animals and other creatures, weather books, and books on inventions. With the help of reference books for me, we are also exploring gardening, doing some weather experiments, and testing out electricity and magnetism (TOPS Learning System's Electricity 32 and Magnetism 33).

We have been at this for over a week now and, if you made it this far, you are probably asking, "How's this working for you?" You can tell me based on what we did last week. In addition to nature study, we explored quite a few things. We kicked off the week beginning with our weekly weather observations and Pamela said, "Just like Ken Brockman!" (a reporter on The Simpsons). While our weather station, a gift from our niece, looks fancy and all, the rain gauge is a jar and ruler. Since we are doing weekly reports, we close the jar after every rain. Pamela's smile the first time we looked at the rain jar was priceless!

Pamela recorded her weather observations and a simple weather demonstration, which you can click for a larger view.

A truly exciting moment happened while trying build a circuit and light a flashlight bulb. The instructions say to let the child explore various ways of building a circuit until they find the right one. When we stumbled upon the way to generate heat (and drain the *ahem* dry cell--don't let your eyes deceive you, those are dry cells), Pamela's face beamed in amazement. Eventually, she figured out how to turn on the light and determined the contact points for dry cell and bulb. Steve, our resident electrical engineer, was thoroughly impressed when we walked in on us building circuits. (This is the man who had to build a calculator that could add from scratch for one of his classes.)

But wait! There's more. To kick off learning about the ear, Pamela drew three pictures of the ear with lovely detail. Then, we built a simulated ear drum, or soundscope. Not only did Pamela feel the balloon vibrate when I talked into it, she could see how the movement varied according to pitch and volume. How? In a dark closet, I shined a flashlight on the shiny spot, which was reflected to the wall. Pamela described the types of movement as I made high or low sounds, soft or loud sounds. It took a little coordination for us to get in a groove, but once we did, her eyes brightened as she figured out the pattern.

The work we did in Excel to plan for our garden and drawing a paddle wheel from to illustrate the title of the first chapter of one book was not the most exciting thing. The baby vulture living in a family's kitchen creeped me out in another, and the owl that liked watching old Westerns on television fascinated Pamela. I enjoyed reading from our weather book:
The sky is a constant reminder of both the power and the beauty of nature. The atmosphere that surrounds Earth is a complex weather machine--fascinating to watch and, occasionally, a brutal experience to suffer . . . The sky is alive, changing constantly, often before our eyes. All we need do is look up to enjoy the glory of one of nature's most fascinating and accessible phenomena.

Were we outdoors much? On our walks for exercise and swamp fox hunting, we noticed all sorts of mushrooms popping up around the neighborhood because of the rain. Pamela found a dead cloudless sulphur butterfly that we will do a nature study on later this week. We got caught in a light rain shower, which was the highlight for that day! We studied the skies for weather reports and collected two inches of rain and spent a few minutes observing and drawing our pear tree.

Did Pamela experience any moments of awe and wonder? Oh, yes! It blossomed on her face several times. Did I? I did a Snoopy dance when we finally figured out how to light the bulb and mustered enough coordination to demonstrate the sound scope.

And, just how did we manage to pack all that into one week and have time for other subjects?


Monday, August 23, 2010

To Post or Not to Post . . . the POW

I have been debating whether or not to share the POW, or plan of the week. My military friends already know that acronym. To my civilian friends, I resigned my commission in 1995 to homeschool the kids. You can take the girl out of the Navy, but you can't take the Navy out of the girl.

I left you hanging on how our first week of school went. FANTASTIC! Many sweet moments that I will treasure in my heart. Many "aha" moments when something clicked for Pamela or a new idea sprouted. Many hours of slogging through books and things and papers and pencils and markers. We even managed to soak up some fresh air.

I was a bit nervous because last week's POW looked way too ambitious. In fact, I am reluctant to post it because some families with autistic children might feel inadequate. Others with brilliant aspies heading to MIT in a few years may snort at our slow pace. Please do not feel guilty because each child is a person with her own mix of scattered skills, his own strengths and weaknesses, her own enthusiasms and meltdown triggers, his own ability to self-regulate. Each family has their own circumstances that makes what I am posting impossible or a total joke. A couple of people want to see the POW, which is the reason for this post.

Pamela learned to be a good apprentice many years ago. She enjoys a Charlotte Mason approach because of the short lessons. Last week, her most common exclamation was, "It's short!" Most of her lessons are ten minutes long (book readings), except for mathematics (forty-five minutes) and science (thirty minutes). Some--like poetry, singing folks songs (Spanish and American) and hymns, listening to Spanish stories, or copywork--only last five minutes. In less than five hours, we surf through a wide and varied curriculum. Because she transitions well and highlighting accomplished lessons spurs her on, she presses onward and upward. I shared our first day and narrations last week. We ended up accomplishing everything but a rained-out walk and one pear experiment that is still in progress. I call that a win for us!

Pamela is twenty-one years old and is able to live up to the ambitious schedule I honed for her over the summer. It has taken us MANY years to get to this level of learning!

. . . When she was six years old, the sight of a pencil launched a nuclear meltdown.

. . . When she was ten years old, ninety minutes in the morning and ninety minutes in the afternoon zonked us.

. . . When she was twelve years old, listening to her read aloud was more painful than sitting in a dentist chair.

. . . When she was fifteen years old, she could not put five words into a sentence with correct grammar if her life depended on it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Our Plan for the Year: Science (Nature Study)

Except for nature study, science has long been a weak area for me because I fell into the trap described by Charlotte Mason, "Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value" (Page 224). In high school and college, I never had much luck with labs and hands-on work because something always seemed to go wrong. In fact, I teamed up with a football player in both of the mandatory electrical engineering classes we had to take in college. He did all the wiring and I wrote the reports and made the calculations. A perfect team! My lack of enthusiasm spilled over into homeschooling and, while we have done labs, we have done them in the spirit of getting the job done rather than exploring, discovering, and making connections. I looked at it as a chore, not a source of awe and wonder.

I fear the situation is even worse for students who live in the information age and spend so much time indoors at school work, home work, or on electronics. I have made the same mistakes as everyone else on that front and am pointing the finger at myself as well:
Scientific training is not the same thing as information about certain scientific subjects. No one in these days can escape random information about radium, wireless telegraphy, heredity, and much else; but windfalls of this sort do not train the mind in exact observation, impartial record, great and humble expectation, patience, reverence, and humility, the sense that any minute natural object enfolds immense secrets––laws after which we are still only feeling our way (Page 101).

It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things (Page 61).

Nature study is the first thing that awakened my senses to the joy of science. Throughout the years, we have sporadically observed nature. This year, I aim for more consistency in our efforts. Mason expected her students "to do a great deal of out-of-door work in which they are assisted by The Changing Year, admirable month by month studies of what is to be seen out-of-doors. They keep records and drawings in a Nature Note Book and make special studies of their own for the particular season with drawings and notes" (Page 219).

For nature study, we will do a combination of indoor and outdoor work, using Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study and Barb Harmony's blog as guides. Indoor work will include studying our pets (to illuminate the study of similar creatures outdoors), plants and their fruit, and live kits like the butterfly study we did over the summmer. Outdoor work will include things in our backyard and places nearby: squirrels, birds, pecan and pear trees, pines and oaks, magnolias, lilies and all sorts of flowers in our beautiful rural community, etc.

This week we adapted the study on apples found on page 667 through page 670 of the Comstock book to what we have on hand: pears. Since the most exciting action doesn't happen until spring, we picked fruit from the pear tree in our backyard and studied the fruit. I created some sheets for Pamela to record her drawings and observations. We are in the middle of doing the two experiments suggested and will post those later. We headed outdoors on a blazing hot day, as all are this time of year in the Carolinas, where Pamela made an entry in her nature notebook. We will do a more formal pear tree study in the winter as we wait for blossoms from the pear, peach, and pecan trees to be observed in the coming year.

The highlight for both of us was enjoying the fruit of our labor after we finished dissecting it! Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat." We found those ten minutes last Wednesday!

One area of nature study that neglected in the past was keeping lists. "The study of natural history and botany with bird lists and plant lists continues throughout school life" (Page 220). In the back of her nature notebook, we will create pages to keep lists of the things we see during the year: insects, trees, flowers, mammals, reptiles, etc. Next week, we will get started by putting pears on a list of trees and painted lady butterflies on a list of insects.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day One Narrations

This afternoon Pamela and I wrapped up Day Four and we are right on track. Every morning, Pamela comes up to me at around 8:15 in the morning and announces, "I want math!" Now that is a good sign!

While many days have been intense and busy (primarily because of poorly timed obligations on my part), we have shared many lovely memories, some blogged on Tuesday. The look on Pamela's face when she generated heat from a battery when working on the TOPS unit was priceless. She was so amazed when we finally got the flashlight bulb to glow. She smiled when I showed her the jar of rain we had captured from last night's storms. Today, when we walked for physical exercise, the weather trapped us in a sudden shower. We were quite wet by the time we reached home. Pamela giggled as we ran from awning to tree cover trying to make it home. She laughed as she splashed puddles with her pink crocs. Two years ago, we stayed put in rainy weather and walked around puddles and now she dances in the rain. After we dried off, we cut up a pear from the tree in our backyard and studied the inside for nature study. Pamela was surprised at how sweet and juicy our organic pears were.

Pamela is clearly on a search for meaning and creating personal anchors for her understanding. Wednesday provided several examples. In narrating a fantasy book, Pamela said, "She get the mail at the post office just like me." After reading the second chapter of a new fairy tale, she said, "It's just like Sleeping Beauty." To my great surprise, Pamela is enjoying a book about presidents and has said things like, "President elections in 2008 and 2012--that's leap year" and "Kings wear crowns, but presidents wear suits." When we read that Abigail Adams made medicine out of snails and worms, Pamela made a barfing noise and, when she was reading aloud a passage of an animal story book, she added an owl hooting as a sound effect for the owl who watched television. Sometimes, she asks questions about words she doesn't know like ping-pong tables and politics.

I will close with the narrations I promised from day one. I added extra words for clarity because Pamela still has word retrieval problems. Her oral narrations have improved a lot in the past couple of years, so what she shared jazzed up about the coming school year!

It had a wind. Cold! Her school had a grade. [The] day was good. [The] day was bad. She had a bad roof. It got break. Her father was gone! [He’s] just like Steve. They saw a white kitten and tongue. The weather had a hurricane. The roof [might get] hit. She saw a wardrobe mirror and a horrible face. Tooth [Teeth have] braces. [Her] eyes [have] glasses. It had a frightened. The girl was scared. It was a creature.

[Canada is] rocky and [has] hems [hemlocks]. [It was a] forest.

Fairy Tale
They [the king and queen] had no children. The king had a crown. He had a queen. [They were] sad. The king was sorry [because they had] no children. The princess cried.

Dinosaurs roar [in] B. C., [the] beginning of the world. [They had the] end of the scrape [scrap] page. [They had] no book[s]. They [a boy] had a mushroom. They eat. [The] story [was on a paper] scrap. He [God] made the hills and seas.

Old Testament: The Tower of Babel
They built a tower [and] said, “Let’s make the building [up to] heaven.” They stopped the build[ing]. Babel [is] Babylon.

Current Events: we are looking at pictures of our current president, Queen Elizabeth II, their residences and the queen’s first crown.
We have President Barack Obama in [the] White House, just like C-SPAN. [England has] Buckingham Palace [and] Queen Elizabeth II. [She is] fancy. [Her crown is] beautiful and fancy.

The White House was big and giant. The people went to [the] White House. Obama [lives there]. Queen Victoria [lived in the palace]. [The palace is] bigger. [The] palace is fancy. Messengers and guards [work]. [A place has] rooms [and a] queen. [We have] no king. Obama [is] President.

South Carolina History
Francis was cleaning up. [He was] cleaning the food. [He] walked and ride [a] horse. [He] was putting the cobs in his pockets. Cobs feed. Francis was angry. He had a fever. He was telling the neighborhood. He had a fit the corn. Francis’ [family] had six children. Francis had a fever.

Native American Story
The baby [said,] “Wah!” It’s lost in the woods. They [the people] had the smallpox. The baby was small. The people were dead. The baby was alone. The baby had some white sparrows, [which] were singing. They [the men] rescued the little girl. She was little frog. She smiled [a] crescent [and] had little teeth. Grandma said, “You old woman!” [She was] cutting [the] birch[bark].

Weather Experiments
The sun was warm and hot. The sun had Earth, [which] is spinning. The sun is yellow. [It is a] star.

The baby wasn’t a queen. The duke was sad. The baby had a prince, George. They had [a] grandmother and aunt. The baby was crying. The baby was small. [She was] baptized. Alex[andrina] Victoria was the baby. [The bishop] get the water and sign [of] Christ the Son.

It had no United States of America. Massachusetts had men. The men had the vote. Abigail had a husband. She had states. Abigail had horses. They ride. [They] said, “Neigh!” Abigail wear the dress. Abigail was a sweetie.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First Day of School 2010

Yesterday was the first day of school and I'm exhausted. It has nothing to do with school or Pamela. For the past ten nights, I have had to be somewhere and the one night "off" I stayed up late to wait for David to come home from hanging out with friends. Tomorrow night will be my last night out!

On top of that, technology is wasting every precious drop of time. The new HP printer came with two official HP cartridges (black and color). After only a quarter of the black ink was gone, the printer gave me cartridge errors because the cartridge was clearly an inferior non-HP product. The problem was it WAS an HP cartridge! The printer must be conspiring against me because Sunday night, when I needed to print just a couple of pages for the first day of school, the color cartridge went on strike and it was only half full!!! ARRRRRRRRRG! Both times I tore into the HP techies, and I must be gracious: they sent replacement deluxe cartridges the very next day.

But, wait! There's more!

My laptop, which is near the end of its warranty, needs a big time overhaul. The sound died when the jack broke three months ago. The left shift key is sticking. The plug in the back is loose so it no longer charges the battery. About six months ago, the DVD burner stopped working but oddly enough the CD burner still worked. That is, until the CD ROM died two weeks ago. Unlike Steve, I did not back-up over my laptop and, except for the cracked screen on his, mine is far more useless. To prepare for going without my trusty friend for a few weeks, I have been trying to find a way to edit my RDI videos on my desktop. I have been staying up until the wee hours of the morning searching for a cheat to make it work. I guess I'll resign my commission as household geekmeister.

And who is the genius who said, "Yes" to meals on wheels on Monday as well as teeth-cleanings booked six months ago for David and I plus signed up to cook the meal for Bible study on Wednesday night. But, I digress! (Oh, I rebooked the dental visits but my conscience prevented me from rolling out the others. I think I need to have "just say no" tattooed to the palm of my hand . . .)

Click on any pictures to see a larger version! Now, I can turn in my geek badge until I redeem myself.

Pamela loves mathematics like her momma and daddy, so she requested that subject first thing. She needed some careful scaffolding in managing to draw with the t-square and 30-60 triangle. However, she picked up on the concepts once we worked with the ruler and t-square to illustrate the difference between parallel lines and an intersection. The author gave concrete examples based on roads, something very familiar to Pamela, who completed the lesson in only thirty-five minutes. Since she loves art, learning to use graphic design tools is a major plus with RightStart.

One thing we did too little of in years past was drawing, especially because it is one of Pamela's strengths. The scenes best suited for drawing is an exciting scene, book of centuries, maps, diagrams, architecture, science beyond nature study, etc. This year we remedied that issue on day one! Pamela draw a birchbark house for a book by that same name as well as a thatched house for the architecture reading on Friday when she will also draw a log cabin for contrast. Here are two drawings and short notes for Pamela's book of centuries based on what we read about presidents (on the second day of school, Pamela made an interesting comparison, "The king wears a crown, but the President wears a suit"):

Pamela cut out the pattern and one piece for her pincushion. When I noticed that the cardstock circle turned out disastrous, I heavily scaffolded her with cutting a felt rectangle and decided to cut out the flowers and circles for her. Recognizing when to step in with handwork and let her work independently will enable Pamela to feel proud of her work. To teach her a new sewing skill, she is going to sew a button to the flower for its center directly onto the top of the pincushion rather than glue it.

The part of our curriculum most altered is science. I plan to rotate through different topics during the week and spend more time doing and drawing rather than reading. Today, we created a spreadsheet for Pamela to learn Excel and make calculations for what we need for gardening (and, with my black thumb, I pray the book is Tammy-proof). We did a real- fast weather experiment and started our weekly weather observation chart. For nature study, we started observing and experimenting with pears from our tree in the backyard, adapting the apple tree study from the Comstock book to suit our purposes.
You may be wondering how we fit meals on wheels into our busy schedule. Thinking on last year, I realized how much car time interrupted school for one reason or another. For every week this year, I plan to make an audio disk that holds everything we need from store-bought Spanish stories to homegrown ones, from classical music to folk songs and hymns, and even a few librivox books. We knocked out twenty-five minutes of schoolwork in the car including reciting the version of "The Lord's Prayer" that our church uses! At home, having everything on one disk means I can pop it into a CD player and take advantage of the remote commander rather than having to get up and change disks six times to get through all of our recorded stuff.

Before our walk, we worked on the section in geography on relative directions (left, right, back, and front), which change depending upon your position. I adapted it to sitting in the kitchen and moving to a different side of the table. This activity dovetailed nicely with working on the changing perspective objective in RDI, which we are doing without much film to show for it because of my cranky, soon-to-be-shipped-off laptop. As God would have it, this week has several opportunities. Pamela cracked up at how different the colonies looked in 1783 because the colonists were fairly clueless about geography past the Appalachian Mountains (time). Later in the week we will draw the top and bottom of the pear and will see how to make vertical lines horizontal (and vice versa) by turning the page ninety degrees (orientation of an object).

We ended the day on a high for both of us. We took a half-hour walk and, when we hit the streets, I remarked with an air of mystery, "We are going on a Swamp Fox hunt." Our county, proud of its connection to Francis Marion, has sponsored murals in our city and several others that depict scenes from his life and from the Revolutionary War. Three are just around the corner from our house. Pamela especially loved searching for the animals hiding in the swamp among the cypress trees with their cypress knees (a Glaser inside joke)!

It is getting late and tomorrow I must be up early to make basghetti noodles and sauce for fifty people. I was going to include the narrations which I plan to record and type up every so often to get an impression of Pamela's thinking and language development. That will have to wait until tomorrow!